Love finds us in the strangest places. People want to fall in love on hilltops and frozen lakes, but they rarely do. Despite their best efforts to live a life of hollywood romance, most people just fall in love in prison, or a carpark if they're lucky. That's just how post-industrial revolution life goes.

A few years back I was made redudant and I spent my months of unemployment wandering the streets in a terrifying and depressing daze. I'd find myself at the beach, not knowing how I got there. I'd awake in treetops, bars and mountainsides without shoes or socks. Nobody can prepare for the horrors of unemployment until they've lived it.

On one cloudy September day I found myself in an arcade playing on the 2p machines. I must have put over fourty quid into one of them in the half-hearted hope that I'd win enough money to make up the difference between my dole and my rent. It was perhaps my worst ever investment.

As I went to leave the arcade something caught my eye. It was one of those grabber machines. Thinking that I should at least win a prize to have something to show for my wasted afternoon, I strolled over to it and inspected the treasure within. There was just one prize in there: me.

The whole thing was a miniature model of the arcade with a lifelike replica of me looking at a scaled down grabber machine. At first I thought that maybe I'd died and I was looking down at my dead body. Then I thought that maybe I'd turned into God and was looking down on the world. Then I thought that maybe I'd always been God, but I'd only just worked it out. It was none of these things.

There was a sign on the side of the machine which said "This machine accepts £1, 50p, 20p, 10p and the souls of the dead." All I had left were two pound coins. The change machine in the corner had an out of order sign stuck across its chest and, according to another sign, the cashier had gone out for lunch. I swore to myself that I would not be beat by currency. Not again.

I ran as fast as my shoeless feet could take me to the nearest newsagents. There was a foreign lady at the till who greeted me enthusiastically, but would only give me change if I bought something. I bought a single Hamlet cigar, although I've never smoked in my life. There's no doubt that having it behind my ear gave me more character though.

As I dashed back to the arcade, careful not to lose my cigar, I could see the silouette of a figure standing at the grabber machine. The silouette belonged to an attractive woman with a terrible haircut.

I stood beside her and we both looked down into the machine. There we were, as small as we were tiny. My duplicate now had a cigar behind his ear which was no bigger than a cocktail sausage and was standing next to a toy woman with bad hair.
The woman turned to me and smiled. She put 30p into the machine and the claw sprang to life. As it dangled over her head, she turned to me again, thought about something for a moment and then moved the claw over my miniature double's head instead. Down it came. Oh, the pain. It felt as if a hundred javellins were piercing my heart. The claw ascended with me in its grip. The tiny me, with a face paralysed with fear, was dragged to the claw's resting place above an ominous looking hole. There he was released to fall into the abyss.

The woman sank to her knees to claim her prize, but there was no door or hole to put her hand in. The entire machine was sealed. There was no lock on the glass to slide it open and no screws on the base to take it apart. As the woman got to her feet again I had no idea what had just happened, but there was one thing I was certain of; I would love this woman until the day I died.

Les, Wycombe.

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